UK to extend ePassport use for non-EU citizens

Travellers from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan will be able to use electronic gates at UK airports

Certain passengers from outside the European Union will soon have the option to use ePassports at the gates of UK airports. As the date of Brexit approaches, the United Kingdom has decided to extend the option to get checked by a facial recognition scanner for travellers from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

The new conditions will apply to travellers from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan — Shutterstock UK to extend ePassport use for non-EU citizens
The new conditions will apply to travellers from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan — Shutterstock

Currently, the option to use ePassport gates, which compares the scan with a pre-saved passenger’s photograph, applies only to a few travel groups. Namely to passengers from UK, EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and to holders of Swiss biometric passports. All passenger must be over 18.

Now, travellers from the six non-European countries won’t have to spend time waiting for a member of the border force to check their travel documents which will make the process significantly faster.

Shortening waiting times is the reason why the country has decided to implement the measure.

The new conditions announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond during his Budget speech on 29 October is a reaction to prevent possible post-Brexit chaos at border controls and a response to airlines that had claimed the waiting time was becoming unbearable for passengers.

With traveller numbers to the UK predicted to increase even more over the next years, some have claimed Brexit could cause major disturbances.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK — the trade body for UK registered airlines — agreed with the new rules.

“As passenger numbers continue to rise, UK Border Force must be adequately resourced and adopt new approaches in order to prevent a repeat of last summer, where lengthy border queues were experienced at a number of UK airports.

The UK has decided to implement the measure as Brexit is approaching — 1000 Words / Shutterstock UK to extend ePassport use for non-EU citizens
The UK has decided to implement the measure as Brexit is approaching — 1000 Words / Shutterstock

“This announcement is a welcome step in the right direction, enabling millions more travellers to be processed more quickly. It’s important now to ensure Government rapidly implements the required technical changes so passengers can take advantage as quickly as possible.”

There are currently 250 e-passport gates at 22 airports and rail stations across the UK.

Chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, Karen Dee, said in response to the news that ePassport gates will now become more accessible: “Extending the use of ePassport gates to citizens of trusted allies is great news for the customer experiences at our international gateways.

“We are pleased to see that Government has listened to the concerns of airlines and airports about the deteriorating border experience in recent years with this announcement. It could be transformational for those airports with high numbers of arrivals from those countries.”